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Denver International Airport is preparing for different weather than it's seen in the past

DIA is preparing for change -- change to accommodate more passengers and change to cut down on emissions and handle climate change.

DENVER — Denver International Airport (DIA) is preparing to expand the airport both to be more environmentally friendly, as well to have it ready for a different climate.

What changes are coming to DIA?  

DIA is preparing for the number of passengers coming through each year to increase to 100 million over the course of the next decade. With that increase comes expansions and responsibility. 

"At our heart, we are a community asset -- one of the most high profile and highly visible community assets within Denver and state of Colorado," Scott Morrissey, who helps lead the sustainability effort at the airport, said. "Because of that, we have a responsibility to lead by example." 

That means DIA is working to make expansions at the airport environmentally friendly, including new facilities that are as much as 30 to 40% more water and energy efficient. They're working on making the existing facilities more efficient, too.

The airport is also planning for a different climate that could potentially impact operations. 

"We're planning for long term," said Morrissey. "Planning projects not just with climate mitigation and reducing emissions, but keeping in mind climate adaptions." 

DIA officials want to build out the airport to be ready for storms to change over the next several decades. Morrissey said they also want to be sure they can keep the airport cool efficiently while cutting down emissions, as environmental experts forecast warming temperatures in the state. 

"Those demands are going to increase over time," Morrissey said.

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What about flights?

High wind days have been common lately along the Front Range. Wind delays at DIA can mean the difference between business humming along and things grinding to a halt in a ground stop.

Adjusting to weather means facility updates, but also looking at how flights are impacted.

"Depending on where [flights] come from, they can hold for 30 minutes to an hour," aviation expert Greg Feith said. "Then make the decision to continue to hold if they can get in or make the decision to go to an alternate."

"Airplanes are in a racetrack holding pattern at various altitudes."

In these conditions, planes are cycled into the flow to land when the weather allows, said Feith.

It's a well orchestrated song and dance that everyone from air traffic control to pilots are trained for. But while airlines and airports are ready for bad weather, Feith said the game is a little different with the number of back-to-back high wind days.

"With the changing weather, we are having climate issues we keep talking about. It has to be factored in how they build the schedule," said Feith about airport traffic flow.

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Who is responsible for plans taking off and landing?

Ultimately it's up to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to decide if it's safe for a plane to take off or land. 

In a statement they said: 

"The FAA's Air Traffic Control System Command Center works closely with airlines to plan for, and around, expected weather nationwide. On a more local level, National Weather Service meteorologists housed at the FAA's 22 Air Route Traffic Control Centers provide down-to-the-minute weather predictions for exact arrival and departure routes in the busiest parts of U.S. airspace. For the flying public, that could mean reduced delays due to storms as we head into the summer."

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